London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Islamists dismissed recent reports on the death of Osama bin Laden “around four months ago”, with the Pakistani newspaper “Awsaf” reporting al Qaeda’s leader had died outside Qandahar in June 2005.
Quoting “informed” sources, the article alleged that bin Laden was hiding with a number of his followers in Bamiyan province when his health deteriorated and he was moved to Qandahar where he died and was buried in the “al Shahadah” tomb outside the city.
Repeated appearance by al Qaeda’s second in command Ayman al Zawahiri, on his own, in the last few months, added weight to the rumors, especially as bin Laden has not appeared in any video for over a year.
Muntasser al Zayat, a lawyer defending Islamist extremists in Egypt, told Asharq al Awsat, in a telephone conversation, that security precautions precluded bin Laden from communicating with the media, as al Zawahiri has in the past, adding that “security concerns require the men not to be in the same location”.
Less stringent security measures meant al Zawahiri was able to record and smuggle videotaped messages while fears for his life precluded bin Laden from appearing in public, especially as he might have had to change his physical appearance to avoid capture, al Zayat indicated.
‘No one can predict where bin Laden and al Zawahiri are currently living. I believe they are in the least expected place”, he said.
For his part, Hani al Sibai, head of al Maqrizi Center in London, indicated that, in case bin Laden dies, al Qaeda would announce a new leadership was in place and publicly back his successor as it had done when “the leaders of Afghan Arab fighters in the Caucus” Moahmmad Atef, also known as Abu Fahs, died in Qandahar in 2001.
Al Sibai indicated that al Zawahiri acknowledged the arrests of Abu Faraj al Libbi and Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al Shibah so that, “if the reports on the death of bin Laden were true, al Qaeda would publicly announce his death.”
‘In my opinion, the disappearance of bin Laden after his last videotaped message in December 2004 is aimed at encouraging the US military to stop pursuing him”, he added.